The London Bridge Trio perform Dvorák’s piano quartets

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COMPOSERS: Antonín Dvorák
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák
WORKS: Piano Quartets Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: London Bridge Trio; Gary Pomeroy (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: Champs Hill Records CHRCD 107

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Dvorák wrote his First Piano Quartet in 1875, an annus mirabilis in which he also created the String Serenade, Fifth Symphony, sundry chamber and vocal works as well as the grand opera Vanda. It was also the year in which he found his classic style. The quartet’s first movement is an effective mix of wistfulness and ebullience. The variation slow movement looks forward to Dvorák’s Dumka manner, and although the finale lacks substance, the work as a whole is certainly winning in as engaging performance as it gets here. The London Bridge Trio bring this unfamiliar work to life as if it were an old friend, with expressive string playing and a constantly arresting rendition of the piano part.

The Piano Quartet No. 2 of 1889 is a masterpiece. Notwithstanding its uncompromising unison opening, it shares the consummate lyricism of Dvorák’s famous Piano Quintet. The players succeed unerringly in the first movement, getting its alternation of fibrous development, melodic relaxation and abundant subtlety just right. The ensemble nature of the performance is strongly to the fore in the remaining movements, though nowhere does it get in the way of expressive articulation or lively interplay. This is especially delightful in the third movement. Presented in a well-balanced recording, this is first-rate reflective chamber music performing without any obtrusive grand standing.

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Jan Smaczny